Newly elected circuit Superior Court Judge Thompson travels the State of North Carolina from the mountains to the Sandhills.
His first year is a baptism of fire: three potential death cases, a first degree murder case, a second degree murder case, and a bizarre rape case in Durham.
Trials are for and about people. The victim has or had his or her own life story. The defendant has his. And the family's lives of both are changed forever.
And then there are the people who observe trials, the participants and onlookers who see the trial from different perspectives:
The judge views the case from a legal viewpoint and rules on matters of law.
The back halls, the courthouse itself, is a microcosm of the justice system. Bailiffs, court reporters, clerks, secretaries, lawyers and other judges observe the case from a different standpoint. They are exposed daily to tales of man's inhumanity to man and they can't help but compare cases and perceive the flaws in the system.
The jury sees the case from yet another perspective. A juror walks into the courtroom cold, knowing nothing about the case. He must put the story together as it unfolds from the witness stand, leaving him with a puzzle that he must solve. He will retire to a room with eleven people he has never met and with them determine the fate of yet another stranger.
This is our court system, ever changing. It is just and fair, but it is also fallible.
And Judge Thompson has a personal life as well. His traveling companion provides a glimpse of his life outside the courtroom.